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I am a figurative painter working in acrylics; my style incorporates both closely-observed detail and atmospheric brushwork. I temper the hardness of hyper-realism with the softness of multiple transparent layers of paint, with results that are both precise and luminous, cerebral and moody.

My process involves the use of existing photographic references, both those selected from my family collection and those I have found elsewhere. I typically work with mundane snapshots, rather than relying on professional photography. Either way, I select images which speak to me on both a conscious and subconscious level, both intellectually and intuitively. Making art from existing photographs requires that I re-envision my sources rather than just copying them, so problem-solving is crucial to my process.

Themes of my work include introspective people experiencing complex emotions; the relentless passage of time; and images that evoke our collective history and memories. As a figurative painter, I am interested in technical accuracy, but I am equally concerned with psychological accuracy; depicting the mental and emotional state of a subject is as crucial to me as capturing their likeness. I often paint children, and I depict childhood as emotionally intense, rather than sweet and sentimental.


Compositionally, I choose subjects in the transitional moments between posed moments, when they are actively engaging with something beyond the camera's lens, and thus beyond the eyes of the viewer. As in a snapshot or selfie, I often crop figures tightly and frame them exiting the edge of the canvas, which creates a sense of energy and movement. Other important elements of my work include expressive lighting and dense layers of subtle color.


Photo of artist Nicole Reader

About the artist

I live in the east San Francisco Bay Area, near Berkeley and Oakland, with my husband and two children.​ I can be reached at

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